This article looks to introduce the Scrum Product Owner and investigates what is Agile to the Scrum Team. The article looks to cover the history of Agile and how Scrum formed.
The Agile Fundamentals
A 59 Seconds Agile Video Animation
The Agile Fundamentals for Developers
A 59 Seconds Agile Article
The History of Agile for the Product Owner – Part 2
Agile and the role of a Product Owner
Agile projects use feature and user stories to represent the end product. The product owner must also be analytical but, more importantly, takes complete ownership in producing the product. The iterative nature of Agile reduces the cycle time for the creation of features and user stories that in turn deliver the highest priority features.
Instead of creating linear requirements, a product owner will develop features and user stories. The features are defined by the product owner and included in a product backlog taking risk and prioritization into consideration. User stories are smaller components written in the voice of the customer. User stories are written to be completed within one sprint cycle which is generally no more than four weeks in duration. Multiple user stories can be used to deliver a feature. Product features are not assumed to be completely defined at the start of a project. They are evaluated as part of sprint planning. New features can be added. Features no longer required can be removed. Features can also be modified as the project evolves. Agile highlights the product owner’s role as a champion of continuous improvement through inspection and adaption.
Waterfall and Business Analysis
Waterfall projects assume a linear approach to design and development. There is one phase to create functional and technical design specifications that are believed to lay out the complete product solution. The business analyst will generally provide input into the design phase. This is not always the case. In some organizations, business analysts are not engaged as product experts during the design phase since the assumption is that the requirements should be complete and require minimal clarification.
Agile and Product Owners
Agile is an iterative process. The backlog is created with direct responsibility given to the product owner. Design and development take place during the execution of sprints. The product owner is directly involved in the design work with the refinement of user stories during sprint planning. While it is still the developer who completes the final technical design, the product owner is collaboratively involved as part of the delivery team to ensure that the design is aligned with the product vision.
Development is also completed during the sprint cycle. The product owner, similar to the business analyst, does not have a hands-on role in the actual creation of the user story. However, the product owner is part of the scrum team and is readily available for review of any user stories for clarification. As features are delivered, the product owner will play a key role in incremental and full functionality testing.
Our Favourite Agile Books
We found these books great for finding out more information on Agile Scrum:
Waterfall Testing and Deployment
The business analyst traditionally participates in the development of test cases with a group of test team members. They are separate from the development team. The business analyst will support the test team in the clarification of any test cases. The business analyst may also support the test team and any users involved in testing. Since all requirements are assumed to have been delivered earlier in the project and no interaction had with the development team, this is the first chance to see the delivery of working code. This is the area where many waterfall projects encounter the greatest difficulties. Requirements that were incorrectly interpreted may have led to the development of complex pieces of code or processes that will have to be re-worked prior to deployment.
The traditional waterfall business analyst generally plays no role in the deployment of new functionality to the end user community. A business analyst may, however, be asked to participate in developing training materials.
The Product Owner role in Agile testing and deployment
Agile projects are based on providing feature value faster to the customer. This requires that the product owner be an integral part of the design, development, and testing that takes place during sprint execution. As features are ready to review the product owner will jointly test deliverables with the rest of the scrum team. Test cases are developed as part of the creation of the user stories in the form of Acceptance Criteria. This enables the development team to clearly understand the expectations of the story and aides in final validation that features are ready for review by key stakeholders.
The product owner holds considerable responsibility during the deployment of features. As the voice of the customer, the product owner will work with key stakeholders to review features for approval. The product owner will also keep an eye on the performance of features delivered to validate if changes are needed to the backlog for future releases.
The Evolution of the Product Owner
As Agile principles became widely valued in project delivery, the role of the product owner has evolved from being a scribe to fully participating as an owner of the end product. The product owner will champion the iterative approach with the scrum team to ensure that the right features and user stories are delivered. Feature definition will align and change as required to focus on a minimally viable product that meets the vision of the key stakeholders.
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User Stories Applied
A 59 Seconds Agile Book Review
User Stories Applied by Mike Cohn is one of our favourite books on Agile User Stories. The book starts with an overview into user stories, and details what a user story is and the different aspects of them. He then discusses how to go about writing a user story, and provides details of the INVEST criteria that can be used to determine if the story is meeting all of its objectives. Next Mike gives an in depth discussion of who user stories are written for and where to begin when gathering the details for them. The book then discusses acceptance testing user stories, including how to go about specifying these criteria and the responsibilities of the development team and customers during this process.